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Uber has been using a secretive app to evade authorities for years, particularly at times when city regulators were trying to block the ride-hailing service, according to a new report by the New York Times' Mike Isaac.

Called Greyball, the tool collected data from Uber's app to identify and evade officials in cities like Boston, Paris, and Las Vegas. The Times reports that the program was used in markets where Uber was outright banned or being resisted by law enforcement.

Current and former Uber employees provided documentation to the Times of the Greyball's use.

Uber provided the following comment to Business Insider:

"This program denies ride requests to fraudulent users who are violating our terms of service - whether that's people aiming to physically harm drivers, competitors looking to disrupt our operations, or opponents who collude with officials on secret 'stings' meant to entrap drivers," the company said.

Uber reportedly started using Greyball as early as 2014 and is still in use today. Greyball is part of a larger program called VTOS, or "violation of terms of service," that allows Uber to suss out people thought to be targeting the ride-hailing service improperly.

"This program denies ride requests to users who are violating our terms of service - whether that's people aiming to physically harm drivers, competitors looking to disrupt our operations, or opponents who collude with officials on secret 'stings' meant to entrap drivers," Uber wrote in a statement to the New York Times.

This story is developing.

http://www.businessinsider.com.au/uber-greyball-app-vtos-authorities-2017-3?r=US&IR=T
 

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Uber faces criminal probe over software used to evade authorities

Extracts from http://www.reuters.com/article/us-uber-tech-crime-exclusive-idUSKBN1802U1

The U.S. Department of Justice has begun a criminal investigation into Uber Technologies Inc's use of a software tool that helped its drivers evade local transportation regulators, two sources familiar with the situation said.

The criminal probe could become a significant problem facing the company that is already struggling with an array of recent business and legal issues.

The nature of any potential federal criminal violation, and the likelihood of anyone being charged, is unclear. The investigation is still in its early stages, the sources said.

Uber received a subpoena from a Northern California grand jury seeking documents concerning how the software tool functioned and where it was deployed, one person familiar with the request said.

The technology at issue in the criminal probe helped Uber tag some users so that they saw a different version of its standard app, the company said in a blog post in March.

Uber said Greyball obscured the real location of Uber cars in various circumstances, including the possibility of physical threats or merely to test new features.

The program was part of a broader Uber system, called Violation of Terms of Service, that analyzed credit card, device identification, location data and other factors to predict whether a request for a ride was legitimate, current and former employees said.
 
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